Archive by Author

Cigar Review: La Palina No. 1 Robusto

23 Jul 2018

This is the second of La Palina’s debut offerings in its Numbers line that I’ve reviewed. There was no reason that I went in reverse order, it just happened that way.

While the two lines share a modernistic approach to packaging and presentation, the cigars themselves are quite different.

The No. 1 is a four-country blend: Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper, Costa Rican binder, and Nicaraguan and Honduran filler tobaccos. Like the No. 2, it comes in four sizes, though they aren’t all the same dimensions. The No. 1 Robusto is a 5.5-inch parejo with a ring gauge of 50 (the No. 2 Robusto has a 52 ring gauge), and it retails for $9.50.

My first impression came from the smooth wrapper’s enticing pre-light aroma. To me, it seemed a little like perfume, making me wonder what I’d experience when I lit it.

I tasted none of the perfume. What I did find initially was a little spice, and a little bite—not the pepper often associated with Nicaraguan tobacco. Farther into the smoke I got leather, some sweetness, and pepper on the retrohale.

There was a nice balance to the flavors throughout. Strength was firmly in the medium range. Rolled at the Plascencia factory in Honduras, each of the Robustos I smoked for this review performed perfectly. The burn was sharp, the ash tight, the draw just right, and the smoke production excellent.

La Palina has been an interesting company since Bill Paley revived the brand in 2010 by introducing a high-end, high-priced cigar at a flashy New York party. Since, Paley has significantly expanded his offerings to include a wide range of cigars that run the gamut of strength, size, and price.

The Numbers line is yet another addition and one well worth trying. I rate the No. 1 Robusto three and a half stogies out of five.

[To read more StogieGuys.com cigar reviews, please click here.]

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Caldwell The T. Lonsdale

21 Jul 2018

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

Although this cigar is generally referred to as a Caldwell smoke, it’s the result of a collaboration by Robert Caldwell, Matt Booth, and Abdel Fernandez of A.J. Fernandez. All are credited on the cigar’s green and gold secondary band. The T.’s Nicaraguan binder and filler are covered by a San Andrés wrapper. Surprisingly, I noticed none of the “dirt” taste I so often associate with that Mexican tobacco. Instead, I found a pleasing, complex smoke that begins with sweetness reminiscent of chocolate. Along the way, flavors of pepper, wood, burnt coffee, and a little nuttiness came and went. Performance was excellent. At about $10, the 6.5-inch, 44-ring gauge, lightly pressed Lonsdale is a cigar I can recommend highly.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Crowned Heads Four Kicks Maduro Lancero Limited Edition 2018

8 Jul 2018

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

H-Town Four Kicks

Shipped recently to members of the Tobacconists’ Association of America, this Lancero (7.5 x 38, $10) was produced in small numbers: 1,500 boxes of 10 cigars. It’s a handsome, dark cigar with a pigtail cap. (The earlier H-Town Four Kicks LE Lancero is pictured above.) The thin frame packs a lot of flavor and some punch with a Connecticut Habano wrapper and Nicaraguan binder and filler. Performance was excellent. The good news is that Crowned Heads plans to offer its remaining supply to retailers attending the IPCPR Trade Show next week.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Nub Cameroon 358

1 Jul 2018

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

Back in 2008, I wrote less than favorably about the Nub Cameroon 358, calling it “an OK cigar, but one I’d rank far behind others …” In the intervening years, Nub has displayed staying power and maintained a strong fan base, so I thought I’d take another look. Two things I notice that haven’t changed: the low price (as little as $3.75 a stick by the box of 24 online) and the tight ash (I finally tapped mine off before it ignited the band). The smoke began a bit harsh, though it smoothed out some after a half-inch or so. I also got a little sweetness and spice along the way. Not a complex smoke, but I can’t help but think I was a little severe before. If you’re looking for a budget Cameroon, give Nub a try.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: La Palina No. 2 Robusto

25 Jun 2018

If you’ve been smoking cigars for a while, lighting up La Palina’s No. 2 might seem like visiting with an old friend. From the first puff, it brings forth the flavors, mouth texture, and feel of maduros before Mexican San Andrés tobacco became the maduro wrapper of choice.

Interestingly, the wrapper on the No. 2 is from Costa Rica, not a more traditional maduro wrapper, such as Connecticut Broadleaf. In fact, the overall blend is a bit unconventional, with a Honduran binder and filler from Nicaragua and Honduras.

The No. 2 (you’ll also see it referred to as the 02) was released along with the No. 1 last year in what has been referred to as La Palina’s Number series. Both stand out from other La Palina brands with bright, colorfully modernist box packaging and bands.

Each comes in four vitolas and both are rolled by Plascencia in Honduras. The No. 2 sizes are Gordo (6 x 58, $11), Toro (6.5 x 54, $10), Robusto (5 x 52, $9.50), and Petit Corona (4.5 x 44, $7.99).

Ever since he brought back his grandfather’s La Palina brand in 2010, Bill Paley has displayed a willingness to experiment. Along the way, he’s produced quite a few memorable cigars.

I smoked three of these dark Robustos. The draw on each was excellent. I would have liked a little more smoke production, though the level wasn’t bad. The only negative was the necessity for an occasional touch-up, not unexpected with such a thick, oily wrapper.

The No. 2 kicked off with a rich taste of espresso and a light spice. Both remained through much of the length of the cigar, moving from forefront to background as other flavors emerged. Those included cocoa, a bit of charred wood, and some tobacco sweetness.

I thoroughly enjoyed this cigar and would recommend it highly, especially to those who have smoked primarily maduros with Mexican wrappers. It’s a different experience.

I believe the La Palina No. 2 is a cigar suited to smokers at any level of experience. I rate it four stogies out of five.

[To read more StogieGuys.com cigar reviews, please click here.]

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Commentary: Cigar Enthusiasts Could Benefit from a Little More Talking

11 Jun 2018

They’re commonly called shelf-talkers. Those little cards or stickers you see so often on store shelves to entice you to buy the highlighted product.

They’re ubiquitous in grocery stores, omnipresent in wine shops, and in many other retail outlets. In cigar stores, though, not so much.

Of course, some cigar manufacturers provide them, and some retailers display them. But I don’t believe they are nearly as common as they should be.

When you’re looking through a humidor hoping to find something you’ve never encountered or a cigar you’ve heard of but haven’t tried, wouldn’t it be helpful to quickly see the basics? By that, I’m referring primarily to the tobaccos used, although we know more would be better.

I find it interesting that tobacco information is regularly included in the descriptions of online and catalog offerings, even if it is sometimes incorrect. Does it make sense that customers have less access to such material when they’re in a store devoted to cigars?

Now, I know some will say you should ask the retailer. And that can work if you are focusing on only one or two cigars, and the staffer you talk to knows the answers. On the other hand, if you’re someone like me who can spend a lot of time looking, considering, and generally doing a Hamlet imitation before choosing a cigar, all that asking isn’t feasible.

More often than not, the alternative is to look up the cigar on a mobile device and try to find what you’re looking for. Personally, I hate spending time doing this, knowing that so many manufacturers’ websites aren’t up to date and information on other sites sometimes conflicts.

I’m aware, too, that some manufacturers don’t want to reveal much of anything to their customers. Cigar fans have been pushing this boulder up the hill for years without, sadly, much success. I wonder whether some of this is a holdover from years past when cigar smokers tended to buy the same brand and size again and again. When that was the case, supplying more information likely seemed superfluous.

Perhaps if shelf-talkers became commonplace in cigar shops, reluctant companies would feel more pressure to go along.

It’s also possible that store owners fear their humidors could end up looking like the shelves at the local dollar store. It’s not for nothing that another name for shelf-talkers is shelf-screamers. And then there are the ones that move. They’re shelf-wobblers.

I think it is quite possible to have shelf-talkers that are discreet and informative. Check out the Sindicato example above. Wouldn’t it be nice if at least that was readily available for every cigar?

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: S.T.K. Black Dahlia by George Rico

9 Jun 2018

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

This offering from Gran Habano features a multi-nation blend, a beautifully ornate band, and a distinctive flavor profile. It’s that profile that will make or break the Black Dahlia for most smokers. For me, it starts with a predominance of biting grassy, hay notes and a long finish. Progressing along the 5-inch, 52-ring gauge frame wrapped in shade-grown Nicaraguan Corojo leaf, nuts and charred wood mix with the predominant, somewhat acerbic, taste. Overall, though, this isn’t a complex creation. It’s also not a cigar I’d want to smoke all the time. But for a change of pace it’s an interesting, different experience. You’ll only know if you feel the same by lighting one up.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys